The Poverty of Punditry: Sarah and Osama

Pete Karman

A new political tell-all book reiterates that Sarah Palin knows as much about the world as George W's pet goat. This as Fox News announced that Sarah the sagacious would soon be elucidating for the nitwit network (I heard she beat out Noam Chomsky for the job*).To get the spin twirling, Bill O’Reilly invited her to refute the imputations of ignorance. He advised Sarah to say that the authors claim that she couldn’t tell North from South Korea was “a lie.” After a moment of fumbling and further prompting by O’Reilly, she crossed her fingers behind her back and agreed it was a lie.Of course, he never asked her to settle the question by citing a difference or two between the Koreas. To be fair, I don’t think it was because he was covering for a fellow yahoo and Fox kit. Few, if any, mediatricians would have asked that obvious question.Substance is rarely news in the news. It’s too dangerous. The job of our media is to create yarns suitable for selling stuff and keeping the public dumb and docile. The bare truth has a tendency to shock some people out of their torpor and is therefore regarded as volatile. So, if you watch and read carefully, you’ll notice that the media are far more often telling us what people say about events than about the events themselves.Consider the fact that Osama bin Laden has been our diablo deluxe for a decade or more. In all that time, I can’t recall one of his rants being translated and transmitted by the major media. What, in his own words, is his weltanschauung? Or his particular gripe with us? He’s given us all this grief, why not give him 30 minutes to explicate the explosions? When I was a kid every public library kept Hitler’s Mein Kampf, in English, on their shelves. To find anything about bin Laden from bin Laden you have to brush up on your Arabic and dig into the nether reaches of the net. Instead we get pundits who don’t know a saalam from a salami telling us that Osama and his acolytes hate us because we’re a free and successful people. They’re pissed because we’re perfect. That’s all you need to know.If a direct appearance by bin Laden sparked our curiosity to the level of interest we had about Stalin, or more likely Saladin, questions might be raised. Like, what about the business and personal relationships between the Bush and bin Laden clans? That would make a great “24” plot. Or what makes bin Laden so popular with the Arab masses? Meaning what exactly do they have against us? That might bring up our military occupation of their lands and our violation of their holy places. Or our stealing their oil. Or our picking and propping up their potentates for them. We don’t want to get into all that, do we?In olden days, the ink-stained wretches of the press were smart enough to be cynical. In other words they knew they were bullshitting the readers. By contrast, Sarah is safely entering upon editorialism at at time when it’s a tossup whether the IQ’s of those in front of or behind the screen at Fox are closer to room temperature. She’ll stand out, if only because she’s not the blond shade of bimbo.(*credit for that line goes to John Fugelsang)This post originally appeared at The Karman Turn.

Pete Karman began working in journalism in 1957 at the awful New York Daily Mirror, where he wrote the first review of Bob Dylan for a New York paper. He lost that job after illegally traveling to Cuba (the rag failed shortly after he got the boot). Karman has reported and edited for various trade and trade union blats and worked as a copywriter. He was happy being a flack for Air France, but not as happy as being an on-and-off In These Times editor and contributor since 1977.
In These Times August 2022 Cover
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